‘It is going to be a magic night’: Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino tells players to make historic Champions League semi-final count
Mauricio Pochettino will tell his Tottenham players it’s time to reach for the stars as they attempt to reach their first Champions League final.
Spurs are in the semi-finals of Europe’s most illustrious competition for the first time since 1962 when they were beaten by Benfica and the manager has eyes on the final.
‘It is going to be a magic night,’ said Pochettino on the eve of the first leg, at home against Ajax, on Tuesday. ‘These are new emotions for me.
Tottenham manager Mauricio Pochettino takes training on Tuesday ahead of facing Ajax
‘To be in a semi-final of the Champions League with Tottenham was a dream five years ago and we are living it.
‘Always you must dream with the moon if you want to reach for the sky. You need to settle your dreams to infinity and beyond. When you are ambitious and want to achieve big things you need to dream.
‘I was always a dreamer. When I was young in my home town in Murphy I dreamed to be a footballer and I achieved it.
‘It was tough but I believe there is power in your mind when you are determined and work hard. If you don’t have dreams it’s difficult to achieve.’
When Pochettino arrived from Southampton in 2014 the challenge set by chairman Daniel Levy was to bring Champions League football to the new stadium.
Spurs were ahead of schedule as they closed the gap on the top four. This is their third successive season in the Champions League and belatedly they are in their new £1billion home at White Hart Lane.
‘That is a thing we feel most proud of,’ said Pochettino. ‘We have been able to develop two different things in football that no other club found it possible do: to provide the club with the most unbelievable facilities and put the club on the sporting side in a very competitive place, reduce gap to top four, and every year to play in the Champions League.
‘The idea initially was to move into the new stadium, to begin to think competitively and one day to get into the Champions League.
‘Look how far ahead we are. That is why after five years, we must congratulate everyone here. Maybe we didn’t win a trophy, but what we are doing now is more than just a trophy. What we achieve as a club is massive.’
Spurs are without top scorers Harry Kane and Heung-min Son in the first leg against Ajax. Kane is out with an ankle injury and although his rehabilitation is going well is not expected to be available for either leg of the semi-final.
Son is banned from the first leg but will be back for the return in Amsterdam. Harry Winks, Serge Aurier and Erik Lamela have all been ruled out.
Moussa Sissoko and Jan Vertonghen trained ahead of the semi-final after missing Saturday’s defeat at home against West Ham. Pochettino rejected the idea his team appeared to be tired against the Hammers.
‘We ran four kilometres more than West Ham,’ said the Spurs boss. ‘We ran 114km and them 110km. When you lose it’s easy to say it’s because you were tired but it’s wrong. We were OK. Only we didn’t find a way to win.’
Opponents Ajax did not play at the weekend. ‘That is not an excuse,’ said Pochettino. ‘That is reality. We were competing in a derby and Ajax had a week to prepare. The fairest way is for both teams to prepare the same way but it is going to be a fantastic semi-final and we will try to win’